Naomi Watts is one of my favourite actresses, and her performance here as Princess Diana has its moments, but it has to be said that she doesn’t look that much like her. Maybe we’ve been spoiled in this department by the fact that Helen Mirren was a dead ringer for Queen Elizabeth in The Queen and Meryl Streep for Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
Nicole Kidman is shortly to play Princess Grace in Grace of Monaco. Seeing as Kidman is rangy and square-faced, would it not have made better sense to have Kidman play Princess Di and Watts play Grace Kelly? (I’m only asking).
The film focusses on Diana’s romance with a Pakistani heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews), to the virtual exclusion of other aspects of her life. If the facts with which it presents us with were true this might have been allowable but one feels the relationship has been fictionalised to cash in on Diana’s reputation. Again.
The romance is played out with some very cheesy lines (“Love is a garden..” etc.), and a performance from Andrews that wouldn’t have got past the local amateur dramatic society in Delhi. He seems to be trying to give an elocution lesson every time he speaks.
Director Oliver Hirschbiegel would have us believe Diana was so besotted with Dr Khan (he mends her “heart” as well as that of his patients), that after he broke up with her she tried to make him jealous by tipping off the paparazzi about the fact that she was on a yacht with Dodi Al-Fayed. Such a tip – no doubt apocryphal – led to that iconic photograph of Diana sitting on the edge of the yacht’s diving board, an image that was beamed around the world within minutes.
A bigger problem with the film than such fanciful concoctions is the fact that, quite apart from the cringe-inducing dialogue or a raft of ham-fisted scenarios that seem to have come straight out of one of those made-for-TV ‘True Stories’ episodes, there’s the gnawing sense that Ms Watts is just too short to play Diana.
In the 1940s and 1950s, those who acted opposite the diminutive Alan Ladd had to stand in trenches to make him look as tall as them. Could contemporary technology not have contrived something similar for co-stars of Ms Watts here?
She gets the voice pitch-perfect, and the upward look from the titled head is also good (except she doesn’t use it enough) but no amount of coaching can compensate for her petite build, or the fact that for most of the movie she looks more like the pop singer Lulu than the beleaguered princess.
In one part of the film where she goes incognito to pursue her romance with Khan she dyes her hair a mousey brown. If she doesn’t look like the Princess with her actual hair colour she’s obviously going to look even less like her without it. In these scenes she looks more like Liz Hurley or Sandy Dennis than anyone else.
Overall Diana is as stiff and starchy as a visit to Buckingham Palace. The storyline creaks as much as the performances. We join the dots on Diana’s globetrotting, her land mines crusade, her inner turmoil – which she unleashes upon an acupuncturist with an accent that seems to have come out of Bel Eire – but what’s missing is the inner woman.
The film threatens to become poignant in its final stages as our self-styled ‘queen of hearts’ experiences a premonition of her death in a Parisian hotel, stopping momentarily to gaze back at a non-existent person, but by this stage one has really given up on the whole thing as a right royal mess so even this semblance of authenticity goes a-begging.